Game Preview: San Antonio Brahmas at Houston Roughnecks

Feb 26, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Roughnecks defensive back Sean Davis (23) breaks the tackle of Arlington Renegades lineman Garrett McGhin (55) tackle after intercepting the ball in the fourth quarter at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: San Antonio Brahmas at Houston Roughnecks

The Matchup:

San Antonio Brahmas (1-1) at Houston Roughnecks (2-0)

Game Time: Sunday, March 5, 2023. 7 p.m.


What’s at stake: Division superiority, Texas pride, and brotherly pride.

This is the Roughnecks’ third straight home game to open the season, all against division opponents. After stopping Arlington last week, they will take on their other in-state rival, the San Antonio Brahmas. Houston can solidify its hold on the XFL South division with a win, while the Brahmas can make the division a true three-horse race with an upset in Houston.

Also, the game pits two brothers against each other in Ranthony Texada (Brahmas) and Raleigh Texada (Roughnecks). Both are cornerbacks who only faced each other’s teams once in college when Ranthony’s TCU Horned Frogs stomped Raleigh’s Baylor Bears 47-22 in 2017.

When the Roughnecks have the ball: QB Brandon Silvers (57.1% comp, 445 yds) is tied for the XFL lead in touchdowns (4) through two weeks. The Roughnecks employ the Mike Leach-style Air Raid offense and will sling it early and often. Deontay Burnett (9 rec, 94 yds, TD) and Jontre Kirklin (7 rec, 127 yds, TD) have shown speed on the outside and the ability to make spectacular catches.

Running back Max Borghi’s combination of speed and power has made him a weapon in the passing game (6 rec, 52 yds) and on the ground (20 car, 69 yds, 2 TD), and he is the only RB with multiple touchdowns.

So far, the Roughnecks have been able to mix a methodical approach down the field with chunk plays to lead the league in scoring.

When the Brahmas have the ball: QB Jack Coan (68.3% comp, 372 yds) is who Silvers is tied with for the league lead in touchdown passes. His six completions of 20+ yards are the most in the XFL. Coan does an excellent job of spreading the ball around, with Fred Brown, Jalen Tolliver, Alize Mack, and Deon Yelder all catching touchdown passes.

Kalen Ballage is the league’s leading rusher through two weeks (36 car, 107 yds), and he has received 13 more carries than any other back in the XFL.

Key Roughnecks to Watch:

LB Trent Harris: He leads the XFL with 4½ sacks and six tackles for loss. Head coach Wade Phillips said before the season that Harris could be the “sack king” of the league. His ability to get in the backfield, disrupt plays, and hunt the quarterback gives the Roughnecks a potential game-breaker on defense every snap.

LB Tim Ward: Ward is tied for second in the league in both sacks (3) and tackles for loss (4). Ward and Harris are the Roughnecks’ version of the Legion of Doom, two defensive players who can wreck drives and force turnovers. The Roughnecks will need to get Coan off his spots and harass him to slow down the Brahmas’ third-ranked offense.

CB Sean Davis: Davis has had back-to-back weeks with interceptions and often finds himself covering the opponent’s top wide receiver. He is tied for the league lead in interceptions and leads the league in interception return yardage (42) despite having a lot of yardage wiped out by a penalty on his return in Week 2. Coan has only thrown one interception so far this season, but Davis has shown a nose for the football.

QB Brandon Silvers: Silvers is a smart pocket passer but doesn’t necessarily have the arm strength to make the throws his brain tells him to make. In Week 1, that resulted in a pair of interceptions. Week 2 it could have resulted in multiple interceptions, but the Renegades’ defenders failed to hold on to the football. Silvers played a strong first half in Week 1 and then struggled in the third quarter. In Week 2, Silvers struggled badly in the first half but rebounded for a strong fourth quarter. He needs to put together a full game of strong play for this team to go from ‘among the best’ to clearly the best.

The Bottom Line: The Roughnecks have made Las Vegas look silly through two weeks for giving them the second-worst odds to win the league. With the Battlehawks and Defenders playing each other this week, at least one 2-0 team will fall.

The Roughnecks can take an early stranglehold of the division with a victory, as they would have a win over all three division opponents, and at least two of those teams would have a minimum of two losses, with Arlington (1-1) playing Orlando (0-2) Week 3 as well.

San Antonio will need to find a way to neutralize the Roughneck pass rush, which leads the league in sacks (12) by five over the next closest team. Houston also leads the league in tackles for loss and interceptions. The Roughnecks’ defense has so far proven to be too much for Orlando and Arlington and will likely be too much for the Brahmas Sunday night.

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